LINCOLN, Neb. — Mick Stoltenberg has seen it all at Nebraska. The senior nose tackle from Gretna, Neb., has experienced multiple coaching changes, a switch from one defensive scheme to another and a shift in his own physique.
As Sunday's Nebraska Football Road Race concluded, Huskers players ran around, cracked jokes with one another and sang loudly into microphones for local television stations. Stoltenberg stood stoically out of the limelight, taking it all in.
Sunday was Stoltenberg's fifth Road Race at Nebraska. It was the first time he was out on the course, though. He handed out water and high-fives, thanking fans for their support.
"It was really cool as people were running because they'd thank us for being out there, but obviously we're thanking them for being here because it's for a great cause," Stoltenberg said. "The fans are so supportive and nice."
Stoltenberg, who missed a portion of spring football with a minor knee injury, spent his summer working harder than he ever has with strength and conditioning coach Zach Duval. While he hasn't put on any new weight, he has seen his body change. He's now maintaining his weight more effectively, which is a huge bonus for the nose tackle heading into the season.
However, it's not just about the physical side of football for Stoltenberg. He's been through a lot as a Husker, so he also knows how vital the relationships on a team can be.
"I feel we've built a lot of camaraderie through this offseason," Stoltenberg said. "There's obviously been a lot of talk through the summer and offseason about the strength and conditioning program — and we've obviously made a ton of gains — but we're also making a lot of gains as far as being a more cohesive team and that's obviously going to be the most important thing [this fall].
"The physical stuff is huge too, but guys playing together and not giving up on each other is very important. I think that's something that's been developing over the last few months here."
A big portion of the camaraderie has been built on the shoulders of players like Stoltenberg and his fellow seniors. They've faced their fair share of adversity in their time at Nebraska, but they're ready to use that as a catalyst for the future.
Summer conditioning comes to a close July 19. While the players will get a little time off to go home and recharge prior to fall camp, they know there isn't room for complacency. When they return at the beginning of August, it'll be full steam ahead. And for many, that means suiting up and putting on the pads for the first time.
Not for Stoltenberg, of course. He's been here before, so he knows what to expect. There's something about knowing what lies ahead that builds confidence in a player and a team.
Stoltenberg expects fans to see that translate to the field this fall.
"Practice is going to be longer, faster and probably harder than the games will be. That's the environment we're trying to get," Stoltenberg said. "We'll train harder to get us ready for the games, so that way when you're in the game and a long drive comes out, you're not in a new environment. You're somewhere you've been 100 times before in training.
"That's what we're looking for in practice and the environment we want to create at Nebraska."
Erin is the Deputy Editor and Digital Marketing Strategist for Hail Varsity. She has covered Nebraska athletics since 2012, which has included stops at Bleacher Report, Cox Media Group’s Land of 10, and even Hail Varsity (previously from 2012-2017). She has also been featured on the Big Ten Network, NET’s Big Red Wrap-Up, and a varsity of radio shows nationwide. When not covering the Huskers, Erin is probably at Chipotle.